Book Review: “Beautiful Wreck: Sex, Lies, and Suicide” by Stephanie Schroeder

I have a crisis, scheme, idea or depression.. subway riders viewing my grotesque facial grimaces + head twisting staring me in the face in my 37th year. I prefer death, nothing less than the face of hate, the fate of hate, the stench of death. Live = Death

                                                 Life = Death

                     Death = Freedom

The first few pages of Beautiful Wreck: Sex, Lies & Suicide set the tone for the memoir’s raw, real look at the struggles Stephanie Schroeder, a self-defined “queer feminist dyke writer, mental health advocate, and activist for social and economic justice,” faced with depression, intimate partner violence, bipolar disorder, Tourette’s Syndrome, and three suicide attempts.

As the narrative of Schroeder’s life progresses from her move to New York City in 1990 as a young activist from Wisconsin through the aftermath of her last suicide attempt in 2006, so flows her understanding of mental illnesses, much the way her afflictions shaped her experiences through this period of her life.

Never in a tone of self-pity or with an attempt to twist events to show herself in a more favorable light, Schroeder writes as a true survivor: as one who has suffered through and risen above the most adverse circumstances and literally lived to share the tale. Beautiful Wreck is not intended to be a self-help book (though additional resources can be found in the appendix), but her detailed descriptions of how it feels to have a Tourette’s-triggered outburst, a partner who physically and emotionally abuses you, and a type of depression that makes you consider ending it all, informs those without those experiences and reminds those coping with similar issues that they are not alone.

After years of therapy, hard work, and advocating on behalf her health to finally find the right doctors and treatment, Schroder ends the narrative of her tumultous journey on a high note:

The most important thing I’ve learned is that I always have options. And I am free to leave an unsatisfactory situation, whether it be personal or professional any time I want or need. I also know I can be me, just me, Stephanie Schroeder, and not something or someone anyone else wants me to be.

I highly recommend this candid memoir, particularly for Schroder’s strong voice that successfully balances life’s darkest moments with humor.

[Full disclosure: I received a copy of the manuscript to review for free.]

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Claire S. Gould

Claire is a social justice communications nerd by day and a bookish feminist blogger by night. She runs the popular blog Bibliofeminista as well as Today in Women's History, a project celebrates a woman in history every day. Outside of work, blogging, and volunteering, Claire enjoys consuming caffeine, making and appreciating art, watching classic films, and endlessly discussing progressive politics.

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